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Applique Wearables

7 Cool tips I learned while designing a t-shirt

A few weeks ago I shared some thoughts on a t-shirt revamp project. It’s definitely finished, photographed and worn many times. If you missed the June 22nd post click here. I thought I had a game plan but I think I learned that ‘game plan’ really means a place to start.

My initial plan included these materials:

Original color scheme

The final plan wound up featuring these materials:

I love the look of the delicate shades of pink with the print fabric

Seven cool things I learned along the way:

1. Stabilize the design area only with water soluble adhesive stabilizer when using Snap-Hoop. There’s no need to fill the entire Snap-Hoop frame with pricey stabilizer for this application because the squiggle designs has a very low stitch count.

Conserve stabilizer!

2. Add interest with print fabrics.
3. Two layers of cotton quilting fabric fused together make very pretty flowers.

What a simple way to update a plain tee!

4. The ‘organic’ look of raw edge appliqué gives a fresh, unstructured touch to a casual t-shirt.
5. Incorporating texture makes a simple design more interesting. The mix of stretch mesh fabric squiggles, the burn-out cotton t-shirt and the gentle wash of the soft floral cotton made for a winning combination.
6. Little hot-fix pearls add sheen without sparkle.
7. ‘Outsiders’ (those poor souls who don’t know how to sew/embroider) will never believe you made it. Poor things, they are missing so much and they think we are absolutely brilliant. If they only knew how simple some of this stuff is to create! Well, some of it is challenging but we don’t want to scare them away.
Look for the complete how-to in the September/October 2011 issue of Designs.

Here’s your assignment this week! 
Post a comment telling us what type of projects you’d like to see in the pages of Designs and you could be a winner of a very generous prize from this month’s sponsor:  Embroider This! 

Embroider This! is donating a $100 gift certificate to one lucky winner for use on the retail website: with no restrictions. 

The winner of a $25 shopping spree offered last week is Patty!  Patty posted her comment:
“I love my Brother Ult 2003 (I know it’s old but it does what I need to do right now).  My favorite feature is being able to do free motion at a steady speed by removing the foot pedal.  I dream of larger hoops and multi needles.”




  • Sharon Thomas

    I really enjoyed the door hangers last fall and got my daughter-in-law hooked on embroidery and sewing when I had her make one. I made several for gifts. I’d like to see more items like that…small, quick and inexpensive for gifts. Maybe towel toppers, plastic bag holders (I have one made from a dishtowel with the long sides stitched together, elastic a the top and bottom and a ribbon for a hanger. Something for boys?

  • Clem

    I would love to see some of those gorgeous applique wall hangings (can I mention brands?) like the ones with animals, incorporated with embriodery and used as quilts.

    I have also shrunk them and used them as jacket backs, but had no “idea” on what embroidery to add to it.


    • eileen

      Of course you can mention brands!

      • Clem

        I am talking about the Big Fork designs

  • Wanda White

    I would like to see more on re-purposing and recycling our current wardrobe or second hand store purchases. There are so many gorgeous fabrics in ugly styles that I like to imagine the fabric in another type of clothing.

  • Darlene Jacolik

    I would love to see some projects for boys…ages 6 – 10 or so. You know, the guys that are too old for toddler stuff, but not yet teens. Keep doing the articles on emblellishing women’s clothing. Your ideas really help me out.

    • eileen

      Boys! It’s quite a challenge to create something cool for that age bracket.

    • Clem

      I agree Darlene.. my grandsons that age would love me to make them something…

    • Janice

      Balboa Threadworks has some great sport designs for boys. I stitched a motorcycle racer on a hoodie and the same design on a tshirt that became a beef-t since one of the sleeves got caught on the back of the design. Also for boys I’ve appliqued their last name and their favorite number on sweatshirts.
      Their website is

  • sallymred

    LOVE the teeshirt idea and would like to see more about clothes embellishment…sometimes my wardrobe looks so PLAIN! Know I have some tees hiding in my closet that need THIS technique. THANKS!

  • Sue Cubberley

    How about some cut work on wearable art?

  • Barbara Cummings

    I’d like to see mixing of various needle treatments–felting,embroidery and cutwork. How cool to create a project using all three of these !

    • eileen

      It would be very cool to see a project with all three techniques. I’ll be on the lookout.

  • Kathy M.

    I would like to see more quick and easy projects. Things you can whip up in an hour or two or even less.

    Gift ideas, definitely things for men. Men are so hard to gift!

    New ways to embellish blanks are always good! Or new ideas on different ways to use blanks, such as, oh I don’t know.. pillows out of hankies or towels.

    And Holiday decor… I loved the stockings you did for Christmas.

  • Linda

    I would like to see more home dec or in the hoop projects, and less embroidery garment re-purposing or construction. Also articles on dividing large designs by using the hoops that came with our machines. I have the Magna Hoop but it’s not in my budget for the Snap Hoop or Hoop it All.


  • Kathy

    I would like to see more articles on stitching on ready made home dec items, such as vases, lamp shades, and such. Thank you for a great magazine.

  • Gail Beam

    Love your T shirt!! You did a fabulous job on it! I would like to see some quick and neat projects for teen boys. Some fun and easy projects to decorate boys rooms would be great!. There are so many bedroom ideas for girls and babies rooms, but hardly anything out there for boys rooms.

    • Clem

      Gail, I did a “mobile” of redwork airplanes but used glow in the dark thread and stitched them on a clear vinyl. I added the real redwork planes (in color of choice). During the day they see the airplanes and are a “cool” decoration. When the boys go to bed they have airplanes in the sky. of course they are not teens, but the 4-10 age group love this.

  • Dale Fedor

    I second (third?) that we need ideas for boys & men. Also would like to see more things for pre-teen/young teen girls that are going on 30! Things that they might like but won’t make me (grandma) think that they are ‘working gals’. And always quick & easy gifts.

  • comocosews

    I would like to see some projects for lengthening pants, and making regular pants into boot cut or wider. I have taken some t-shirts not our size, but nice pattern on them. I will split open the bottom, outer side of the pants I want wider on the bottom, and use the t-shirt material to put a plaque in there. For lengthening, I will cut pants legs into two pieces, about 4 or 5 inches up from each bottom. Between the two pieces, I will put a fabric I like , which will make the legs longer, yet the bottoms finished in the way it was bought. You can embellish this material however you like. I would like to learn more ideas.

  • Katrina H

    little pincushion designs would be nice. Maybe something to help organize types of needles.

  • Vonee

    I made the my favorite bag in your new book, Maxhine Embroidered Quilting and Applique’. I have to say I learned a lot doing it. I have a few questions concerning it. First of all your directions say it is finished size of 12 3/4 by 12 3/4 by 3. Following the instructions and the designs used, there is no way it could be that small. Mine finished out 19″ wide. What is up with that difference in the size it was supposed to be? And the handles definately could not be made with 18″ pieces of strapping, that would definately not have been enough length. It turned out beautiful but a lot larger. Please let me know why this is! I did everything according to the instructions. I also made the table runner in the book, and it turned out beautiful as well.
    Thanks, I look forward to your reply.
    Vonee in Texas

    • eileen

      Hi Vonee,
      I’ll check the instructions and measure the bag for you tomorrow. I’m in a hotel with no ruler! But I do have the bag with me.

      • eileen

        Yikes! You are right – the finished dimensions in the book are not correct. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. The finished bag is 15″ x 12″ and the straps are 29″ long. I apologize for the misprint – the editor was supposed to catch those types of details as all projects were in her possession at print time.

        • Vonee

          Hi Eileen, thanks for your response. It is a beautiful bag, but much bigger than I carry. My daughter-in-law is going to love it. She is college prof, and I am sure she will enjoy the large size for papers, etc. I will make it again, but will edit the size down first. I would love to work for your magazine, I am a very detailed oriented Texas girl! Love, love your magazine!!!

  • Donna G.

    I like simple projects, those that repurpose or recycle items, and home decor. ‘Designs’ covers these very well! I also like articles featuring embroidering on different fabrics and new techniques. Eileen, I’ve been a long time ‘Designs’ reader. In fact, I still have the very first issue! As I look at the projects over time, I’m amazed at how sophisticated this hobby has become.

    • eileen

      I agree, Donna, this hobby has become very sophisticated. Aren’t we lucky?

  • Colleen Bunner

    I would love to see more projects using the stipple designs. Fell in love with the jacket, plan on making it soon.

    • eileen

      Colleen, you’ll be pleased to know we have two Stipple projects coming up in the next issue.

  • Anne Marie Reilly

    I love to embellish shirts that I already own so I would like to see more of garment embellishment that does not involve making the item from scratch. I’d also like gift ideas because I think we all need ideas to use for holiday gifting.

  • Susan Constantine

    I have never done a T-Shirt, but am now inspired. Thanks

  • Debbie St. Germain

    I have been wanting to use some of my old shirts, to make patterns for new ones. I have my favorites, so thought it would be fun if I just made my own.

    I have an embroidery machine, but not thrilled with the things that came with it. I would love to see more country and primitive designs and small gift items so I could practice and learn how to use embroidery in my projects.


  • karin

    I’d like to see more projects that showcase our embroidery or embellishments….and I love the quick projects that make great gifts! Maybe even some ideas on what to do with our sergers, aside from make spectacular finished edges! Thanks so much for all your tips, tricks & inspiration!

  • MrsFredPed

    I LOVE this t-shirt idea! More embellishments for tops is what I’m looking for – I need inspiration!

  • Mary Coonts

    I love in the hoop projects. They are so ingenious and clever.

    I’d also like an article on improving my machine appliqué. I would never even consider appliquéing the old way with fusible web and zigzag stitches. My problem is that sometimes after a wash or two the fabric starts to pull out and fray. Did I cut too close? Did I need to go into editing and fine tune the design? Is there a way to judge if a design is well digitized for appliqué?

    • eileen

      Hi Mary,
      I have a couple of suggestions for you on machine applique. Interface the applique first before applying it to the base fabric. I like to use tricot knit fusible interfacing because it doesn’t add any weight or stiffening to the fabric. I have also used fusible web on the applique fabric. Just iron it to the wrong side of the applique fabric, remove the protective paper and make the applique. After all embroidery is complete, iron the applique.

      Since you mentioned you have editing software, there are a couple of things you can check. First, make sure the satin stitch also includes a zigzag underlay. This type of underlay or tackdown holds down the edge of the applique before the satin and reduces the possibility of the applique edge not getting caught in the satin stitch.

      One more thing to check is the width of the satin stitch. My personal perference is a minimum width of 3.0mm. This is still narrow but will hold the applique edge. As a rule of thumb, the wider the satin stitch, the less likely the applique will separate from the base fabric.

      Hope this helps!

  • Jeanette Wade

    Love the Designs magazine, have since its inception. Would like to see an article with embroidery clothing featured for grandbaby, mother and grandmother. Would that not be a grand entrance? Families are the heart of our great nation.

  • Betsy

    Thanks for helping me improve my machine embroidery skills with your magazine and online site. I really enjoy the tutorials, tips and tricks. I do very little garment construction and would like to see more ideas for quilting and wall art.

  • Patty Happel

    I’m so excited to win last weeks’ drawing. Can’t decide what to buy with it! I’d like to see more quilting ideas and sweat shirt conversions.
    Thanks again!

  • Judith

    Just getting into repurposing and absolutely my mind is spinning but only because of the spark created by you! I will NEVER throw out or donate any clothes again (especially T-Shirts) without thinking about what else it can become or what parts of it can become something new. Please keep this whole new way of creativity alive with more creative articles. Thanks for the sparks!

  • Louise

    I would love to see instructions on how you actually made those flowers for this lovely t-shirt.

  • margaret fredericks

    I’d like to see ideas for embellishing belts. Perfect idea for men and boys, sounds like it would be popular. We need cool embroidery, I’m thinking Urban Threads, and ways to attach things, like keys, flash drives and i d badges

    • eileen

      Great ideas, Margaret! Thanks for your input.

  • Debbie B

    I am just getting into machine applique and embroidery – love anything I can use to create items for babies and children.

  • Ann

    Will you ever have a Snap Hoop to fit the Singer Futura Quartet (also known as the Singer Futura XL-400)? The hoop for that machine is a 6″X10″ and slides into the embroidery carriage. Please look into this as I “need” a Snap Hoop to do the continuous embroidery designs for quilting that you keep coming out with! I’m sure there is a market for this Snap Hoop for many of these new machines have been sold in the last year.
    Perhaps some of the Snap Hoops available for other machines could fit this Singer?? Please let me know. Thanks!

  • Kathy Schmidt

    Anything you come up with is always great, I do like the idea of embelishing ideas for ready-made clothing. My favorite place to get blanks is garage sales & second=hand stores. I find I get alot of practise without the great expense of retail, especially as I am just starting out, but getting better the more I practise. I do recommend using reference cards for embroidery. Nancy’s Notions carry really good ones, but when I was running out of them, I was able to customize some for myself with all the info I usually need.
    I also love all the orgainzational ideas, an organized stitcher is a happy stiticher because we spend less time hunting and more time stitichin!!!

  • Cathy

    I love projects with personalization since they make gifts so special. For kids – I wish we did not have to be so concerned about kids’ names on their clothing or their backpacks, etc. -what other projects could utilize the great fonts available?
    Also would love gift ideas for those friends/family that have everything – so hard to buy for!

  • Kari Kechter

    I would love to see some more articles/projects on how to digitize designs. For example, provide some artwork, teach us how to digitize it, and then show cool examples of how it is used on different projects.

  • Susan

    I love your magazine, and your blog. I learn a lot from both. What I am interested in are more gift items that are easy and interesting. With a large family and many birthdays for all age groups, I look for new ideas to impress them all!

  • Jessica Einspahr

    I also would love to see more on repurposing clothing and things for boys as well.

  • Mary Jo

    I just read your magazine for the first time today. I love it! I feel inspired to step out of my box and try some new things. Is there a back issue with more details about the Stipple technique? I will look forward to future issues! Thank you for a great magazine!

  • Peggy A.

    I just started my subscription after I saw you at a Stitchin Sisters event in Puyallop and I read it cover to cover and then I bring it upstairs to the sewing room to start playing.

    I would love to see some tags, luggage tags, gift tags in the magazine.

    Also, I have an an Accuquilt Studio die cutter and I would love to know how to combine the die-cut pieces with machine embroidery.

    I can’t wait for the next issue!

    • eileen

      Hi Peggy, thanks for joining us here and in the pages of Designs.

  • Desiree Kumpf

    I would like to see more t-shirt embroidery. I feel like I’m doing the same thing over and over, just different designs on the front of a shirt! I’d also like to see articles about embroidery as a home business. And also stabilizing techniques. It seems everyone has something different to say about that. Thanks for a fabulous magazine!

  • Barbara

    My favorite projects are the ones with the “Gee whiz!” factor that focus on techniques or media that can be applied in many ways. Whether it’s embroidering on balsa wood or applique with angelina, seeing something new and/or unusual gets me inspired and keeps me excited about machine embroidery!

    I hope you make it down to Houston for a Stitchin’ Sisters event!

  • Margaret Brantley

    Your t-shirt embellishment with the pastel flowers is really cool. Would love to see more like this . . . also, embroidery on quilts since I am a quilter big time. Thanks for so many inspiring ideas. ~Margaret

  • Dennis

    I want to see more things to do with denim. Right now I have three very large boxes of jeans people gave me when I did my denim quilt. What am I going to do with all of these jeans?

  • Evelyn Gonzalez

    I would really like to see a very basic article on “How to Get Started Embroidering.” I, and I’m sure many others, went out and bought a very expensive embroidery/quilting machine, and have no idea of even the basics of embroidering! I just don’t know where to start!
    And the prize package sounds like a real winner! Thank you for doing this blog — it’s an absolute “cup runneth over” of information for your fellow bloggers! Thanks again!

  • Melissa McWhite

    Hi Eileen! Love the t-shirt! Raw edge applique is so hot right now! would like to see more home dec ideas that are cool and modern looking. Thanks for the inspiration on the t-shirt! Melissa in SC

  • Lisa Monroe

    “After reading the posts on this blog, I feel like I know a lot more about embroidery. And based on the number of posts, I see I am not alone. My website, has not been up long, but I would like to refer people back to your website to read the info. Thanks again, Lisa Monroe.”

  • Lisa Krupa

    I love in the hoop projects and quick and easy gift ideas

  • Mary Heffernan

    Do you have a snap hoop for Viking Designer 1. I have magna hoop but I like the ease of the snap hoop. I have several of your stipple cd’s and love the designs. I don’t know what you mean by
    website in the address section, please clarify. Thank you, Mary

  • Jo Stires

    I would like to see how to embroider a T-shirt neckline and get the design in the right place. I’m thinking of a V-neck shirt.

  • maria elena blecha

    I love mmore projects to embellish things we can buy, love the t shirts with the flowers around neck or down the center, love projects that are easy and fast to get done but also look like a million dollars!! All your projects qualified!! I love it when the project has the design included for free! Thanks

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